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Preview – Air Tools – Hatsan’s Air Rifles

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Photography by Straight 8

Hatsan’s Air Rifles Are About as Far Removed From a Red Ryder as a Ducati Is From a Big Wheel

The humble air rifle has long been eclipsed by its powder-burning brethren, but this wasn’t always the case. If you wanted a repeater back when loose black powder was the only propellant available, an airgun was the ticket. Merriweather Lewis purchased a Girandoni air rifle for the Corps of Discovery and used it to impress the Native American tribes they encountered en route across the continent. The ability to fire up to 22 shots without reloading wasn’t lost on his audience and ensured a peaceful passage through their territory.

In countries where firearm ownership is heavily curtailed by government regulations, the air rifle occupies a niche that in the United States is taken by the .22 LR — slaying pests, plinking in the backyard, and introducing new shooters to the gun world. While we would never advocate trading a .22 for an airgun (mainly because, well, ’Murica!), they do have a few notable advantages. Chief among these is the cost and availability of ammunition — whereas affordable .22 LR is currently rarer than rocking horse poop, 500 air rifle pellets can be had for less than a 10 spot. Other benefits include free propellant, no FFL required for transfer, enough horsepower to take small game, and no $200 tax stamp should you buy an airgun with an integral suppressor. (See RECOIL Issue 8 for additional coverage of airguns.)

Hatsan BT65Hatsan AT44 QE

Although comparative newcomers to the U.S. market, Hatsan has been manufacturing airguns and shotguns in Turkey for almost four decades. We snagged a couple of models for evaluation and spent an enjoyable three months blowing little scraps of lead through their barrels.

The flagship of Hatsan’s lineup is the BT65. It’s available with either a walnut or polymer stock and in two bolt configurations, namely a side-mounted bolt handle and a rear-mounted model. We tested the side-mounted version with plastic furniture.

A pet peeve when it comes to rifles of any type is that most domestic manufacturers set their comb height to accommodate open sights despite having ditched irons long ago, both as a cost-saving measure and in recognition of the fact that just about everyone will mount some kind of optic. This results in the shooter having to crane their neck to see through the scope. With so many getting it wrong, why then does it take a Turkish airgun maker to get it right? The BT65 offers not only a halfway decent set of Truglo irons, but also a stock that adjusts for both comb and butt-plate height, as well as length of pull so that the user can adapt the gun to his physique, rather than the other way around.

Tucked inside the fore-end and slung under the 23-inch-long barrel is the rifle’s power plant. A 1.3-inch diameter cylinder threads into the action and supplies air at up to 200 bar to send (in this case) a .25 slug on its way to the target. Air cylinders are removable and a freshly charged one is good for around 30 shots before muzzle velocity starts to drop noticeably. There’s a handy-dandy gauge at the muzzle end of the cylinder to remind you to recharge it, should you ever forget how many shots you’ve fired. And if you don’t feel like buying an additional cylinder, then the one in the gun can be recharged in situ.

Taking a page from Browning’s playbook, Hatsan chose to finish its two-stage triggers in a flashy gold-colored plating. We’re not sure this feature actually adds anything to its performance, but adjustability for weight and travel certainly does. Our sample was not exactly “glass rod” crisp, but more like the rollover break of a good AR trigger and could be dialed down all the way to 3 pounds on its second stage.

Hatsan BT65 Rotary Magazine

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